Fields of Gold

excess heat in the summer and save water stress. The wildflowers attract pollinating insects but also control the pest population as they allow a diverse and therefore competing group of bugs to live on the farm – rather than a locust like swarm moving through in one foul swoop. The plants also benefit the crops because of what goes on underneath the ground. Without constant ploughing, the wildflower alleys establish deep and complex relationships with each other and the fungi in the soil. Together they draw up nutrients from deep in the earth, share resources and protect one another from pests. They are so healthy they can share this nutritional and health advantage with the surrounding soil and organisms, including the crops.

And so, the art of the possible- we can easily grow a wider diversity of crops that can be eaten by us whilst also being eaten by wildlife and providing habitat. Plus we can continue to grow some more intensive plantations of carbohydrate rich crops intermingled with wild spaces that actually support the crops. So why don’t we?

Because everything I have talked about above would allow for food production, good farming and maintenance of farmer livelihoods but none of it allows for profit, for wealth and riches. The biodiverse way is an equitable way. It rewards farmers, but not too much. It rewards consumers, but not too much and it keeps the land itself in balance- taking a little, but not too much. The system I describe is a way of life for feeding communities. The system we have is a business for feeding the rich with money and their interests are strongly defended. A system without much need for oil, pesticides, fertilisers, transport, seed ownership, marketing, is a system without much need for them (at least as they currently are). So, it is perfectly possible for us conservationists to have a biodiverse middle of the field and get along with small scale farmers and eat the fruits of all our hard work. What is not possible is to have this whilst large corporations continue to dominate and control the food market.

If you are a conservationist, then please remain a conservationist when you buy your food. Buy it local, buy it organic, support small farmers, avoid supermarkets and large corporations. Better still, grow a little or a lot of your own and reduce the demand in the first place. At work, seek out these farms and farmers, support them, learn from them and each other, even run a farm or two and let them run a nature reserve on their farm. And please, please, please keep talking about the middle of the field because the food we all eat is our biodiversity, or at least it once was… and it could be again.

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